Your mileage may vary, but it was impossible for me to stop smiling the entire time I read this book. This is the comic series I would have loved to have had on the shelves when I was a kid and obsessed with the Dick Tracy film.
The concept of this series is brilliant, with each issue interpreting Dick Tracy as he’d work in different decades. This issue shows us a Tracy more in line with the hard-nosed Sam Spade types of old film noir, complete with a brown jacket in place of the familiar yellow trench coat. It’s a neat little aesthetic choice that speaks volumes to this version of the famous detective and informs this take on Tracy in subtle ways.
This Dick Tracy is a man of the law, first and foremost – that much hasn’t changed. He enforces it, even when it breaks his heart. While the comic never quite slows down in terms of pacing, there are some beautiful moments where you see the weight of Tracy’s actions on his face. They’re brief, but important in distinguishing Tracy from other “hard-boiled detective” types.
Among several fun little references to the larger Dick Tracy canon, the classic characters that are represented here are played true to their original incarnations, with some great updates for modern storytelling. Tess Trueheart, Dick Tracy’s girlfriend, is particularly well-represented here, rushing along into action alongside her man in one my favorite moments of the issue.
In an interview with Newsarama, Michael Oeming referred to Dick Tracy as a character that has long been on his creative bucket list, and it really shows here. The artwork is unmistakably Oeming’s style (Tracy could kill a man with that powerful chin), but there’s a clear love on display for the kind of exaggerated faces and dynamic action of the classic Chester Gould strips. Even when they’re standing around a table arguing about an ongoing case, there’s such a sense of motion to each character. Nothing is static, a feeling bolstered by Taki Soma’s exquisite coloring, which embraces the same sort of wild, four-color jubilance exhibited by Warren Beatty’s film adaptation.
This first issue is a total love letter to the pulp magazines of the 30s and action-oriented comic strips. There’s adventure, grotesque villains, good old-fashioned police work, and even a freaking crossword puzzle in the middle of the book. The stories are short but have a small narrative link between them, further echoing the serialized nature of the comic strips. However, the stories also stand on their own and are fun enough that they should also appeal to readers who have never picked up a Dick Tracy comic before.
In terms of sheer fun, it just doesn’t get any better than this. I can’t wait to see what the 1950s-set second issue has in store!